China economy

Economic slowdowns in Macau and China have driven headlines recently, but a new report by the Brookings Institute ranks Macau as the top economically performing metropolitan area in the world for 2014, followed by four Chinese cities in the top 10 and 11 in the top 20.

Macau’s casino industry took a hit over the second half of 2014, due mainly to a Chinese crackdown on corruption and graft that has reduced the number of VIP high-rollers travelling to Macau from the mainland. In December, gambling revenues hit their lowest point since 2011, and for the whole year, the industry recorded its first ever year-on-year decline – much to the dismay of casino and junket operators. Read more

By Robert Moffatt, Neuberger Berman

Throughout much of the world, auto market prospects appear sluggish. In the US, auto sales are moving back to normalised replacement demand levels, implying slowing growth. In Europe, sales are being held back by a choppy economic recovery. China, in our view, presents a different story. Despite near-term concerns about the country’s slowing GDP growth and slipping consumer confidence, we are bullish on the long-term growth prospects of Chinese autos.

The Chinese auto market went through a rapid growth spurt from 2005-2010, growing nearly six-fold in six years, from 2.5m units in 2004 to 13.75m units in 2010. This unprecedented 35 per cent compounded annual growth rate has since slowed to roughly 9 per cent, but with nearly 18m cars sold in 2013, China has displaced both the U.S. and Western Europe as the world’s largest auto market (see chart below). Read more

By Vikas Pota, Varkey Foundation

By 2030, the economies of India and China together may contribute 65 per cent of global GDP and be home to the majority of the world’s working age population. India alone will possess the world’s biggest pool of potential employees.

But the giddy predictions of future growth seem more fragile when it is considered that this potential labour force is dependent on education systems that often fail to teach basic skills.

India has the largest number of illiterate adults of any country globally. Teacher absenteeism is the third highest in the world, and many teachers lack basic training. Some 12.8m young Indians enter the work force each year and, without adequate skills, will often struggle to find employment. Shanghai leads the rankings done by Pisa, the Programme for International Student Assessment, and has become a poster-child for education ministries around the word. But in rural China, many students still do not finish secondary school. Read more

By Frederic Neumann, HSBC

Things in China look a bit soggy. True, growth a touch above 7 per cent is nothing to sneer at. But it’s down sharply from days past. And as the Mainland matures, those double-digit growth rates seem even less likely to return. Where, then, to look for the next story of hyper-charged growth?

Plenty of promising places around: Sri Lanka will probably grow faster than China this year, and so could the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh at some point. But, from a global perspective, these will hardly make a dent; certainly, commodity markets will not get terribly excited about accelerating demand from these markets. Read more

China’s “big four” state banks are losing share in the country’s fast-growing retail banking market as customers embrace a more sophisticated array of products and swell a burgeoning fashion for digital banking, according to a survey of savers conducted by McKinsey, the consultancy.

The main beneficiary from the slide of the “big four” – the Agricultural Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China and the China Construction Bank – have been the joint-stock commercial banks, which include institutions such as China Merchants Bank, China Everbright Bank and CITIC Bank. Read more

The decrease in mineral exports that has been hurting growth and investment in Peru, the world’s third largest copper producer, appears to have taken a heavy toll on economic growth, with President Ollanta Humala saying in a radio interview this week that 2014 growth eased to somewhere between 2.6 and 2.7 per cent.

This prediction, if confirmed by official statistics, would mark the Andean country’s slowest GDP growth rate in over five years. It would also represent a sharp slowdown from 2013, when the economy expanded at 5.8 per cent. Read more

By Li Hejun, China New Energy Chamber of Commerce and Hanergy Holding Group

Almost 200 governments met in Peru this month to hammer out a first draft of a global deal to cut emissions, ahead of a new round of climate talks next year in Paris. If the world is to arrest climate change, global economies need to embrace renewable energy. Those looking for a model of how this might be done should consider a possibly surprising source: China.

It has been little noticed by the outside world, but in China a technological revolution that will result in huge gains in efficiency and new applications for renewable energy has already begun. Read more

By Rafael Halpin, China Confidential

At the start of his premiership, Li Keqiang drew on an ancient Chinese proverb to explain the task ahead. A Chinese warrior, having been bitten by a snake, cuts off his hand in order to save his body. China’s reform process will be “very painful and even feel like cutting one’s wrist”, Li warned.

Pain has certainly been part of 2014 for the Chinese economy. To a large extent, it has been self-inflicted. Measures to deleverage the shadow financing system, for example, led to a sharp slowdown in credit, which in turn contributed to a drop in home sales. This has resulted in slower growth in industrial output, as well as weaker consumer purchases of cars and white goods. Meanwhile, anti-corruption campaigns have hit spending on luxury goods and services and led to delays in the approval of new projects by local officials. Read more

By Andy Rothman, Matthews Asia

After two decades of 10 per cent GDP growth, followed by average growth of over 8 per cent, conventional wisdom is that China is on the verge of collapse. But that wisdom is based largely on many misunderstandings.

Let’s start with the consensus that China’s residential property market is about to replicate the U.S. housing crisis. But China has avoided most of the U.S. traps. For example, homeowner leverage is far lower in China than it was in the U.S. during the run-up to the crisis. By 2006, the National Association of Realtors reported that the median cash down payment for first-time homebuyers in the U.S. was only 2 per cent of the purchase price. In China, the minimum down payment is 30 per cent. Read more

When the IMF announced this year that China’s economy had overtaken the US economy at purchasing power parity, there was some skepticism about the usefulness of PPP calculations and widespread amazement about the speed at which China had made this transformation.

Both themes carry over in a note on Friday from HSBC, which examines the data more closely to conclude that, even after switching variables, the size and importance of the Chinese economy cannot be denied. Read more

By Hayden Briscoe, Shamaila Khan and Jenny Zeng, AllianceBernstein

Based on insights from our team’s recent trip to China, we noted that the country is likely headed for a long economic landing. What does that mean for its infrastructure and commodity sectors? Read more

By Hayden Briscoe, Shamaila Khan and Jenny Zeng, AllianceBernstein

China’s economy isn’t headed for a hard or soft landing — instead, it’s more likely to be a long landing. That’s our perspective, based on our team’s recent visit to China to get an up-close look at the economic landscape.

The country’s economy clearly faces another few years of uncertainty and negative headlines, but we think the risks will be contained as long as the government sticks to its reform agenda. On our China trip, we assessed conditions in important cyclical sectors such as banking, basic industries and property. Read more

By Jonathan Fenby, Trusted Sources

Far from fading away, the anti-corruption campaign launched two years ago by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is widening and has all the appearance of being seen by Xi and his colleagues as a regular instrument of governance.

It has, of course, involved getting rid of high-profile politicians such as the former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, and the maverick Bo Xilai, along with their associates. But, in keeping with Xi’s declared aim of going for both “flies” and “tigers”, it is also seen by the leadership as a means of cutting lower-level bad apples out of Communist Party.

What is intriguing is the question of whether Xi and his principal enforcer, Discipline Commission chief Wang Qishan, see it as a means of making the state sector more efficient. Read more

Zhou Xiaochan, China's central bank governorClearly, China’s interest rate cut on Friday was motivated by a desire to manage a flagging growth story. But the announcement also revealed a few sub-plots, which together may say more about Beijing’s mindset than the dominant narrative.

The first point, several analysts said, is that Beijing’s monetary easing may well have further to run, following the decision by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to cut its benchmark lending rate by 0.4 percentage points to 5.6 per cent, while cutting its deposit rate by 0.25 per cent to 2.75 per cent. Read more

By Xiao Qi, China Confidential

China’s shadow finance sector has become a global concern. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have both warned about the risks associated with the rapid build-up of assets within such an opaque sector, while central bankers now regularly reference Chinese shadow finance as a key potential risk to global economic stability.

But while concern over the lurking horrors in China’s financial shadows remains justified, regulatory actions mean that the systemic risks that they pose are finally starting to ebb. This is happening in spite of the fact that the overall scale of the shadow system is continuing to expand. Read more

Can China innovate its way out of a prolonged economic growth slowdown? Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, believes so. In his new book, “The End of Copycat China – The Rise of Creativity, Innovation and Individualism in Asia”, he argues that China will start innovating now because it has to – and that it didn’t before simply because it didn’t need to. That’s an interesting theory, but is he right?

Rein first does battle with common perceptions that the Chinese political system or culture limits its ability to innovate. It’s not because China is a communist-led country with limited individual freedom, that it does not come up with corporate inventions, he says. Read more

By Louis Kuijs of RBS

China’s economic growth is coming down, trend-wise, but opinions differ widely over how much and how quickly.

In a recent paper, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and his co-author Lant Pritchett argue that, based on global experience, it is more likely for China to “revert to the mean” of 2 per cent GDP growth than to keep growing at relatively high rates.

It makes sense to look at history as a guide to the future. But, what is the right history to look at? Read more

By Jonathan Fenby, Trusted Sources

Reports of the latest Chinese Communist Party Plenum have made much of a drive by the leadership in Beijing to improve “the rule of law”. If that were the case, it would represent a major positive step in the process of change promised by the previous Plenum in November 2013. Establishing a strong, independent legal system is an essential step in enhancing the rights of individuals and providing a level playing field for companies and investors.

Boosting hopes that this may be on the leadership’s agenda, official Chinese media, along with some investment bank analysts and foreign media commentators, have hailed the Plenum as, in the words of one of the former, “a blueprint for the law of law”. This is playing with words. Read more

By Freha Amjad

If you are looking to ride a career helicopter into the rarefied echelons of those who earn more than $250,000 a year – then consider becoming an expat working in Asia.

Such a course is suggested by the findings of the latest HSBC Expat Explorer report, which is based on a YouGov survey of 9,288 expats worldwide. Asia is home to the highest earning expats, who are almost three times more likely to earn over $250,000 a year than their counterparts in Europe. Read more

There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for China’s beleaguered housing market, according to a survey of real estate developers by China Confidential. Home sales growth in October was the highest in 18 months, while a separate survey of urban consumers shows home buying sentiment at a multi-year high.

China Confidential’s monthly survey of 300 real estate developers across 40 cities, showed a sharp rebound in sales volumes in October, with companies reporting the biggest month-on-month increase since March 2013. Developers reported an even larger expansion in sales inquiries, suggesting that many potential home-buyers remain on the side-lines. Read more